By EmmanuelÂ Ojeme
This game has been much expected and it is here now, to be played tomorrow in Abuja. It marks a watershed for Nigeriaâ€™s effort to qualify for the World Cup of 2010 in South Africa. A victory for the Nigerian team means a two-point toppling of the visitors, Tunisia, who now lead the group with the same margin. It is obvious therefore, that both teams know the stakes are high. It is not a final qualification match but definitely it is a major determinant of which of the two teams moves forward with brighter chances.
May Tunisia not win or draw because if either of the two outcomes happens for Tunisia, Nigeria may as well forget taking part in next yearâ€™s World Cup competition. May this not be our portion as the spiritualists say.
This Nigeria/Tunisia game is definitely a testy and big one. The purpose of this brief piece is to put in a few words of advice for the management and players of Super Eagles.
What is Tunisiaâ€™s goal in this game? Tunisia will aim at getting a draw or outright victory. Either of these outcomes is good for their World Cup dream, considering the teamâ€™s current leadership position.
Are they capable of achieving this goal? It all depends on the behaviour of our team on the field of play. How is the Tunisian team likely to play? The game plan of the Carthage Eagles will be to protect its current leadership position and explore opportunities to cause an upset. It means that the Tunisian team is most likely to play a packed midfield, that is, a defensive and containment strategy with occasional raid of the Super Eagles. They will be very organized and disciplined in their approach to the game.
Now, how can the Super Eagles work through this game plan and carry the day? First andÂ foremost, the Chief Coach of the Super Eagles must:
(1)Select the proper set of players
(2) ensure that the players selected are in the best shape in terms of fitness and performance capability,
(3) collaborate with Team Doctor to ascertain the fitness condition of players to feature in the game,
(4) ensure that those selected are in the right frame of mind,
(5) take the game as war, guided by rules.
The Super Eagles need to be very organized and disciplined on the field. The team must be missionary in their performance. How should the team play? The team must embark on mass attack and defence. That is, the team must be highly mobile in moving forward and quick in its defensive formation. An early goal by the Eagles of Nigeria would settle nerves.
The captain of the team must provide leadership on the field. If the opponent remains stubborn and goals are difficult, then our strikers or anyone with dribbling skills should attempt to dribble his way in the box and perhaps could get a penalty. Victory must be taken by wits, strategy and awesome determination.
I foresee the Super Eagles being fouled a lot in vital areas of the opponentâ€™s side of the field. Hence, it is necessary for the team to practice a lot on use of dead balls including penalty and corner kicks. I can predict a 2-0 margin of victory for the Super Eagles. Even, if it is 1-0 margin, it is still okay. A draw is not good for us, while a defeat for the Super Eagles sends us out of the race for 2010 World Cup.
I believe that the coach and his players know the importance of this game. May God hear our cry and prayers for victory against Tunisia Carthage Eagles, Amen.
Prof E.O. Ojeme, contributed this from University of Benin.